Deepwater Horizon: a decade of disaster

Ten years after the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, the biggest oil spill in US history, coastal communities and ecosystems are still grappling with its effects. Explosions at the drilling rig off the coast of Louisiana on April 20th, 2010, released an astonishing 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over almost three months. The muck washed up onto more than 1,300 miles of shoreline spanning from Texas to Florida. Eleven people lost their lives on the rig. Tens of thousands of birds, sea turtles, marine mammals, and fish died in the aftermath.

The crisis began before The Verge was founded in 2011, but scientists are still discovering the extent of the damage done. The toxic extent of the spill could have been 30 percent larger than previously thought because of “invisible oil” that satellites couldn’t detect, a February 2020 study found. As climate change pushes tides higher onto low-lying shorelines, the BP spill eroded land on Louisiana’s already jeopardized coast, a 2016 study revealed.

BP’s culpability in the crisis has also unfolded over time. The oil giant was found guilty of “gross negligence” leading to the catastrophic spill. As a result, it has had to pay $65 billion in claims and clean-up costs.

See our coverage of the Deepwater Horizon fallout here.